Review by Francene DePrez
This is the 25th book in Sue Grafton’s series starring Kinsey Millhone, private investigator. She first introduced the Alphabet series in 1982. Sadly, this will be the last book in the series as Ms. Grafton passed away in December 2017.
I have read a number of the Millhone books and find that each one can be read independently of the others. Whether you are reading from A to Y, or jumping around in the middle of the alphabet, the books are usually a fun read. My only challenge is remembering which ones I have read. When I checked out this book to read for a book review, I discovered that I had already read it! But I really couldn’t remember the story line so I read it again.
This book was not one of Grafton’s best. Kinsey, at 39, seemed more tentative and unsure of herself and Henry, her neighbor, seemed off as well. In some cases, the story seems unbelievable. The story line begins in 1979, with the murder of a young high-school girl, and jumps to 1989 when Millhone gets involved. She is hired by the rich parents of Fritz McCabe, just recently released from prison for his involvement in the 1979 crime.
Someone is blackmailing the family with the threat of releasing a sex tape made during a drinking binge when Fritz was a teenager, that will get him in trouble with the law. Millhone starts interviewing all of the teenagers around during the 1979 incident to figure out who could be blackmailing the McCabe’s. She reconstructs the prior events and, eventually, solves the crime.
Kinsey has her own problems as the serial killer from book X is still on the run and after her. Most of the teenagers are unlikable in 1979 and stay that way in 1989. The plot was a little hard to follow with the back to ’79 and forward to ’89, and in a few cases, you knew the story before Kinsey Millhone did. There is definitely a surprise ending. Some of the sub-plots seem weird and just words to fill pages.
As one reviewer said “If you’re a Kinsey Millhone fan, you should probably read this book. If you’re not familiar with the series, don’t start here…it might put you off the others”. It was a quick read, but if you are looking for a good mystery, I wouldn’t recommend this book. It is a book you might grab when there is nothing else to read. You either really love the book or really dislike the book – lots of reviews in the low 2-3 stars and lots of 5-star reviews. It is all a matter of perspective and personal preference.
Jefferson Carnegie Library has almost all of the Kinsey Millhone books in its collection, with several available on CD or large print. If you are new to this series, you might want to check out the A, B and C novels printed together in a single book. Since Kinsey is perpetually in the 1980’s, you can enjoy the stories without the distraction of cell phones or 24-hour news channels in the characters’ lives.
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